Lund 1970’s

The Mill: A Winter Pastoral (1)

Wednesday, February 3rd, 1971

3 February 1971

MacMillan Bloedel Powell River Pulp and Paper Mill 1971Fred took me on a tour around the mill today. It has the beauty of a great beast. I lost myself in the sensuous energy of its throb and thrust and spin. Afterwards I went to personnel. The lady said the waiting list for jobs is so long she wouldn’t add my name. No one’s been hired in months and layoffs are expected.

G3 Grinder Room Powell River Mill 1971I saw Bob inside. No wonder he always looks so philosophical. He was standing on a platform, lifting heavy chunks of wood from a skid, the chopped refuse of the sawmill, and stuffing them into one of six small steam-spewing mouths that go crunch as they close, surrounded by a hundred men on a hundred other platforms on the floor of a dark drafty hangar, all doing the same thing, their faces looking forlorn and trapped, and yet resigned to playing that subhuman role for eight hours a day in return for eight free hours (at wierdly varying times) and eight more hours of peaceful sleep. Is that a bargain price to pay? Unemployed, with a wife six months pregnant, I envy them.

Pipes and Tanks Powell River Mill 1971

I drive back to the farm alone and search for a small project to lessen my sense of uselessness: building a ladder for a fire escape from the bedroom window. Jan announces dinner as I finish putting the tools away and I sit down without washing hands to a garlicky cheese casserole, yoghurt grown on the mantle and cauliflower salad from a head scavenged out of the dumpster in back of Super-Valu. After dinner we bring out the cash book and check book and savings book. We total our expenses since arriving here and categorize them: Land payments, Food, Insurance, Maintenance, Clothing, Automotive. Minimum $450, maximum $550 per month. With no work our savings and loans run out in six months.


The Mill: A Winter Pastoral (2)

Friday, April 30th, 1971

April 30 1971”waiting for visiting hour at the hospital next to the mill.

Yesterday was Jonah’s birth day. A gray wet windy day like most of them since November. A violent chaotic delivery, mother and baby close to death. At this time of fulfillment I feel only confusion and readiness. I’ve hardly seen and not yet touched my child, yanked with stainless steel tongs from his snug sustaining womb into this world of bright lights, harsh sounds and endless room in which to grow and fight. Dragged out with straining and haste, the noise of command and protest and three shrieks whose echoes still terrify me.

I used to feel this way after visiting my grandmother in the nursing home. Birth, death. Our beginnings and ends, grim and superimposed. She died the day we bought the farm. We moved in and kicked out the squatters. Chris, the previous owner, worked in the mill to make the payments, but a year at it destroyed his family and his mind. That was our opportunity.

Last Easter Sunday.  An epiphany of Spring watching the alder buds burst. Erectile tissue stretching and unfolding to welcome the sun. Interrupted by the explosive sputter of the loggers’ D6 bulldozer in our driveway, leaking oil on the hyacinths.

I returned alone to our empty house from the hospital late yesterday afternoon. The grass was up, rough spots carpeted for the first time, deer browsing in the pasture. Seeds sprouted high in the little pots on the window sill.

The Mill: A Winter Pastoral (3)

Saturday, May 1st, 1971

1 May 1971–Waiting to visit Janet and the baby in the hospital

Amazed by the difficulty of life–simple, common, everyday private life. After the ordeal of birth, which was supposed to be ecstatic, the ordeal of recovery, of starting to nurse, of separation, of uncertainty about the birth defect…the ordeal of being a parent, of financial anxiety stronger than ever…all those loose ends, unasnwered letters, suspended friendships, tasks, challenges, debts, unrecorded expenditures (gas on the way to town: $4.75)

The Mill: A Winter Pastoral (4)

Sunday, June 27th, 1971

27 June 1971

Jonah struggles to turn over and move himself: growth is rebellion against limitation, breaking the shackles of helplessness, violent, explosive, full of rage, strain, frustration.